Cats begin prep for physical challenge at LSU

Each week of the football season generally begins with a chess match between the two teams.

Which style will win out? Who will make the best moves and counters?

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To hear Kentucky coach Mark Stoops describe it, though, his Wildcats are expecting something much less subtle when they visit Baton Rogue on Saturday for a matchup with LSU.

Chess match? Perhaps tug-o-war is a more apt comparison.

“Typical LSU team, extremely physical, well coached team,” Stoops said Monday during his weekly press luncheon. “We'll have our hands full, but again, looking forward to it. It'll be a great challenge and a great opportunity.”

Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 SEC) is off to one of the better starts in school history. LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC) has not performed up to its lofty preseason expectations, but is coming off an emotional 30-27 win at Florida.

The Tigers pose a daunting challenge to UK’s run defense, which comes into this week’s matchup ranked eighth in the SEC at 151.1 yards allowed per game. LSU, led by talented backs Leonard Fournette and Kenny Hilliard, averages 209.1.

“They (LSU) run the ball extremely well,” Stoops said. “They're extremely physical. With the emergence of their freshman tailback, Fournette, he's a physical guy. And of course, Kenny Hilliard, their senior. They got some good backs. Very big, very physical. Their whole line does a great job, so we'll have our hands full this week.”

Stoops sees it as a good test for his defensive unit, which has shown dramatic overall improvement this season, but has occasionally be prone to giving up large chunks of yardage on the ground. Earlier this season, Florida and South Carolina rushed for 237 and 282 yards, respectively, against the Wildcats.

Improved linebacker play was cited as a need for last week’s game against ULM, and UK got that from Khalid Henderson and Josh Forrest, according to Stoops. The Warhawks managed only 77 net yards rushing on 40 attempts, good for just 1.9 yards per carry.

“We were better. We were much better,” Stoops said. “I really was proud of Khalid. I thought he played his best game. He really improved. Josh (Forrest) played better against the run as well.

“Like I've said over and over, Josh does some things very well, but overall as a unit, they took great pride in trying to improve … we're going to need a great week of preparation this week, because it's a different challenge this week.”

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